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'Auntie style': What Indigenous youth want to see changed in Manitoba's health-care system

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Indigenous youth in Winnipeg have released a new report, calling for changes with how they’re treated in the health-care system.

The report, published Monday as part of the “OurCare” project, included insights and recommendations from a roundtable discussion in November. It calls for an approached rooted in ‘Auntie Style,’ where systems and workers are focused on kinship, and culturally safe care can be provided.

“We walk into a hospital and expect to be discriminated against,” said a group at one of the roundtables.

Michael Redhead Champagne, who helped facilitate the report, said the roundtable discussion laid bare the good, the bad and the ugly of the health-care system.

“We consistently heard from young people how impacted their mental health and overall wellness is when their relatives that they love and care for deeply don't receive the health care that they need,” he said. “So there's a ripple effect when the families of indigenous youth don't get access to the care that they are entitled to, in addition to microaggressions and other elements of racial discrimination that the youth identified that they are experiencing as well.”

The report said the youth expressed “a deep mistrust” of the mainstream health-care system, with stories shared of long wait times for care, which they attributed to discrimination. It added Indigenous youth would often put off seeking medical care until it becomes an emergency.

“What ends up happening is these things that could have been prevented end up growing into much larger problems that maybe impact their health on a longer-term basis,” Champagne said.

Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said it is concerning to hear some patients are hesitating to go to the hospital, and said work will be done to help address the issues.

“The previous government turned their backs on Indigenous communities when it came to working together to strengthen health care,” Asagwara said. “We are in a new age in Manitoba, where the voices of Indigenous youth bringing concerns forward and bringing solutions forward will be taken very seriously and is being taken seriously by our government.”

Some of the recommendations made in the report include having health-care staff take mandatory Indigenous studies courses, and ensuring “Trauma-informed practices and harm reduction approaches become the norm in critical settings.”

The report also recommends increasing the number of Indigenous support workers in the health-care system, funding Indigenous-led spaces and services, and removing barriers to access treatment, such as discounted tickets or bus passes for appointments.

Asagwara said the government will continue meeting with Indigenous communities and leaders in the coming weeks.

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